ABC News WA Comment – sex offender sentencing

Jail term for sex offender applauded Updated Sat Jul 31, 2010 10:53am AEST Gary Narkle WA sex offender (ABC TV)

A victims of sexual abuse support group has applauded the lengthy jail term handed to repeat sex offender Gary Narkle. Narkle was yesterday jailed for a non-parole term of 10 years for the rape of a 40-year-old homeless man in 2009. Prosecutors have lodged an application with the sentencing judge which, if approved, would see Narkle jailed indefinitely. Cathy Kezelman from Adults Surviving Child Abuse says the sentence sends a strong message to the community about sex offending. “Sadly some people will offend sexually, but it is important that people realise that this crime will not be tolerated,” she said. Ms Kezelman says public safety must be of primary importance. “One needs to do whatever one can to rehabilitate people but some people are unable to be rehabilitated and I think it’s very important that people are protected,” she said.

Review by Jennie Sattler

Dr. Cathy Kezelman’s “Innocence Revisited” is not for the faint hearted.  “Innocence Revisited” is a very personal, open and honest account of Cathy’s life.  Cathy was severely abused as a young child by the very people whose primary role was actually to protect, nurture and guide her through her childhood.  At times harrowing to the reader (who actually only ever experiences Cathy’s trauma indirectly through her writing), the impact of Cathy’s story on readers is ultimately more than offset by a very uplifting message of resilience, strength, resolution, hope and healing.

Cathy goes on to share how her early life experience affected her both as a growing child and young daughter and later as an adult, as a wife and as a mother.  “Innocence Revisited” tells how Cathy gradually faces the reality and the truth of her past and ultimately and incredibly, how she moves beyond her old blockages and pain, to reclaim herself and to attain an inner peace.

For anyone who was abused as a child (sexually, emotionally and/or physically), Cathy’s story offers insight, understanding, comfort, validation, solace, inspiration and hope.  “Innocence Revisited” offers those grappling with the impacts of childhood abuse, the opportunity to share in the intimate details of someone else’s journey, the opportunity to ‘see their own experience’ more objectively through Cathy’s eyes, to gain some context around their own experiences as well as the opportunity to share in and gain the benefit of Cathy’s insights and realisations to help them move further towards their own resolutions.

Most importantly, Cathy’s book offers those who have experienced childhood trauma, the priceless and richly reassuring knowing of: “I’m not alone with my ‘shameful’ experiences, Cathy also went through something like what I went through as a child and she has overcome it!” Cathy’s life story proves that healing from horrific childhood trauma is possible. 

For anyone who loves someone who has experienced childhood trauma, Cathy’s book offers insights into the daily challenges and the extensive, ungraspable impact of childhood trauma.  Through Cathy’s story, friends and relatives can gain an appreciation of the vital importance of unconditional love, non-judgement, listening and acceptance in supporting their loved one through their inevitable lows and in helping them to resolve their own internal struggles.  Friends and relatives can also gain reassurance and hope in knowing that recovery is possible.

For those working as therapists, Dr. Kezelman’s story is a personal, first hand account of the impact of child abuse and the long road to healing and recovery written by an intelligent, rational, educated and experienced General Practitioner.  “Innocence Revisited” offers those working with survivors of childhood abuse the opportunity to ‘step into their client’s shoes’ and to gain far greater empathy and insight into their client’s challenges and needs than any prescribed textbook could hope to offer.

Cathy’s courage, honesty and openness is extraordinary and a testament to her inner strength in overcoming all that she has endured.  “Innocence Revisited” is a tribute to Dr. Kezelman’s commitment to healing herself for her own wellbeing, enabling her to truly ‘be there’ for her beloved husband and four children.

Cathy’s book is a remarkable act of openness, courage, honesty, perseverance, a rare and precious generosity and a huge contribution towards raising awareness and healing the broad detrimental abuse of the most vulnerable, most trusting, most needy and most innocent members of our society – our beautiful babies and young children – utterly unique, pure and precious little miracles.

Another blow for victims of clergy sexual abuse

Another blow for victims of clergy sexual abuse

Published Times

July 20, 2010 – 6:59AM

The Catholic Church’s process for handling the victims of sexual abuse by clergy members has left many victims unhappy. Photo: Angela Wylie

The Vatican’s juxtaposition of women’s ordination and child sexual assault as a “grave crime” is another attack on the victims of clergy abuse.

Melbourne’s Archbishop, Denis Hart, has since stated that “the Church is merely clarifying its position” regardiing what it thinks is serious, but this does not mitigate the blow for those people awaiting justice for their ordeals.

The Vatican document further states that any priest seeking to ordain a woman is open to being defrocked. The new Vatican rules for dealing with the crime of child sexual assault have also reviewed the mechanism for defrocking paedophile priests, with the most grave cases being referred “to the Roman pontiff”. While this does speed up the process, the guidelines fall short of making such defrocking mandatory in the case of paedophilia.

Archbishop Hart stated in his Melbourne pastoral letter that the Church had “not always dealt appropriately with offenders” and that any attempt to conceal sexual abuse was unacceptable. However, only a revelation in The Age saying that the Church’s standard letters to victims were misleading and potentially intimidating has opened the Melbourne church to reviewing that process.

Many a victim of clergy abuse has, according to recent reports, been a further victim of the “Melbourne Response” and the “Towards Healing” process, after being left with the belief that accepting compensation would nullify the possibility of any further claims for their sexual abuse.

Sydney Archbishop George Pell has held up “Towards Healing” globally as a model for dealing with child sexual assault cases by the Church. But one does not have to go far to find scores of victims who have felt traumatised by the process, in turn advising fellow victims to pursue any course of action towards justice and support other than that of the Church internally.

While the new Vatican rules have added some positive amendments to the guidelines, the handling of child sexual assault cases still remains an internal Church process under the auspices of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. There is still no obligation for bishops to report cases of clergy child sexual assault to the police or make the hierarchy accountable under canonical law for covering up cases. In fact, canonical trials have perennially been held under the strictest secrecy, with victims often believing that they couldn’t go to the police.

The need to maintain the secrecy of Church trials has been defended by the Vatican “in order to safeguard the dignity of all the people involved”. Yet many victims would feel that their dignity has been betrayed by the process, while the Vatican’s further assertion that “all Christians are required to obey civil laws” has not reaped justice to date.

The new rules extend the statute of limitations in reporting sexual assault crimes another 10 years, up to the age of 38 years, with a loose provision to extend it further in some cases. While this concession is welcome, it fails to reflect a genuine understanding of the real legacy of child sexual assault. The impact of this crime in and of itself, and especially when perpetrated by a moral and spiritual being, leaves many victims unable to speak out. To do so takes enormous courage and solid support and often happens only when the victim reaches their 40s, 50s or 60s.

Sadly many victims never speak of their abuse. Any bar in the way of the victim is one too many, and the Church’s track record is one of endless bars. The statute of limitations should be removed and all victims openly encouraged to come forward, and be heard.

This month, Bishop Bill Morris from the Queensland diocese of Toowoomba gave hope to victims. Not only did he openly admit the Church’s liability in the sexual abuse cases, but he sought to minimise any further trauma to the victims through an apology and the offer of an “expeditious resolution to compensation claims”, proposing a mediated settlement to be overseen by a former High Court judge.

The Catholic Church, in Australia and globally, has a long way to go to follow Bishop Morris’s lead. For it is the needs of victims and the protection of children that is paramount — and the time is long overdue for the Church to focus take real responsibility for the bottom line.


Steps on abusing clergy reek of Church’s failure

Letter to editor published SMH 17th July/Faifax online… in response to release of new Vatican guidelines for handling child sex abuse cases

Any step in dealing with the impact of child sexual assault is welcome, but the new rules from the Vatican are too little, too late (”Sex abuse scandal prompts more stringent rules from Vatican”, July 16). They simply document more fully the Catholic Church’s internal processes for dealing with child sexual abuse, which have proved grossly inadequate.

These rules still fail to require bishops to report cases of clergy child sexual assault to police or to make the hierarchy accountable under canonical law for covering up cases.

They do speed up the process of defrocking paedophile priests, but they do not impose zero tolerance for clergy who have committed these crimes.

To list the ordination of women as a ”grave crime” in the same document is to highlight how far the church has to go in understanding the impact of child sexual assault.

Despite protestations that this inclusion does not amount to equating the two ”crimes”, the processes and punishments listed are the same. To couple them in this way is offensive to those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by their abuse at the hands of clergy.

Extending the statute of limitations another 10 years, with a loose provision to go further in some cases, displays ignorance about the courage, moral fortitude, support and time needed for victims to come forward.

The limit should have been removed, as many victims are unable to speak about their abuse until they are in their 40s, 50s or 60s – some never can. Victims of child sexual assault need validation, justice, appropriate care and support. The church has failed on all counts.

Cathy Kezelman Chairwoman, Adults Surviving Child Abuse,

“Words of Hope”

article AJN June 16th

Cathy Kezelman was just five years old when she was first brutally sexually assaulted. The abuse continued for close to ten years at the hands of a number of people.

But it was only at the age of 43 that the then medical practitioner revisited the horrific memories she had repressed for her adult life.

The nature of the trauma was so severe that Dr. Kezelman has developed a severe dissociative disorder that fragmented her personality into different parts, causing a disconnection between her thoughts, memories, feelings and actions – a condition to which she attribtues her survival.

But when her 18-year old niece died in a car accident, it triggered the repressed memories of the abuse to return and she began to relive them over a ten-year period in the form of flashbacks.

“As my memories came back I was dissociated as I recovered them, ” the 56 year old doctor recalls.  “The memories came back as fragments. My body was taken over; it was like I was being driven. I would mouth words that were being said to me. It was terrifying beyond belief.”

As the memories returned slowly, painfully and in fragments, her seemingly normal life took a horrible backflip, sending her into a spiral of deep depression.

After she relived each flashback with her husband or clinical psychologist, she would write down the memory. “I couldn’t actually speak,” she recalls. I was just so overwhelmed by the memories I thought I was going crazy.”

It was those writings throughout a therapeutic process which coalesced to form a recently published memoir, “Innocence Revisited – a tale in parts.”

The book tells the story of her ordeal – from the depression she fell into after her niece’s death, to the subsequent flashbacks, and finally to overc0ming her trauma.

More than a cathartic process, teh mother of four children and one foster child wrote the book to also help counter the shame that victims commonly experience.

“That shame is totally silencing and of course, so inappropriate because you’ve been the victim,” she emphasises. “The societal shame keeps people silent, particularly when you start talking about abuse in a white Anglo-Saxon, Australian, in a family, in a home, in our area. And of course perpetrators also implant that shame and guilt to silence you.”

As the chair of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), Dr. Kezelman has worked in a voluntary capacity for 10 years, lobbying the Government for funding and helping to devise the national organisation’s strategic direction. 

“At ASCA we know that child abuse continues unabated despite all the best attempts of child protection services. There are a lot of survivors in the community doesn’t make it go away. It’s still there.”

As a director of the Mental Health Coordinating Council, she says that unless more people start to talk about abuse, change won’t come about.

“It’s time to erode the secrecy, shame and stigma. People are scared of things they don’t understand and I think fear perpetuates the issue because it leaves it unaddressed.

But together with the silence often shrouding child abuse victims, the issue is also compounded by those who don’t accept the existence of repressed memories and their validity.

In launching the book Senior Crown Prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi said the book should be seen as a landmark in “it’s intense portrayal of the way a child can survive severe sexual abuse by dividing their very essence into fragments.”

“There will be come people who read this book and are reluctant to believe that such abject cruelty to a child or young adolescent could happen.” he said. “As a prosecutor in the criminal courts for more than 10 years I can tell you that it exists in every segment of our society and many other societies.”

Now with her book on the shelves Dr. Kezelman hopes that her book will reach out to other survivors.

“I want to show that there is help and hope and a future out there. I want to show that you don’t have to stay overwhelmed by your past and stuck in your trauma together, that you can move on and have a really positive life.”

“There’s no shame in seeking help for being a victim, ” she stresses. “It’s courageous to stand up and say, “I need help.” People need to be encouraged to do that and acknowledged for doing that.”

It’s been more than three years since Dr. Kezelman relived her last repressed memory. The therapy process has enabled her to form deeper relationships and live a richer life. She no longer controls you; it’s no longer all you are. It’s a part of you like everyone’s past is a part of them.”

It’s taken courage for Dr. Kezelman to tell her story, particularly within her own community and it’s come at the cost of her relationship with her mother and her brother, who is a Holocaust survivor. But silence would have come as the greatest sacrifice.

“I accept now what I can’t change. What I do get more upset about is the resistance and denial in our community that continues,” she says.

“And that’s what drives me to want to educate and keep speaking out because I want to see that change that creates a more positive world of support for children and adults that actually helps to stop this happening.”

“I think I’m privileged in a way. I’ve had an education, I’ve got a medical background, I’ve got the skills and advantages that other survivors don’t have. I feel like those can be used to create change and that’s what I’m trying to do.” 

Innocence Revisited – a tale in parts can be purchased at